By: Christine Hollinden
Too often firms focus solely on “hocking their wares” without much consideration to whether or not those “wares” are needed or valued. It’s not about what you want to sell; it’s about what your clients want to buy. If you focus strictly on selling them something versus filling an unmet need or providing a solution, your services will be viewed as a commodity. Commodities are cheap and easily replaced. Do you know what services your clients deem the most valuable? Begin by understanding clients’ biggest pain points, then modify or build your services to address those needs. Change your focus, concentrate solely on value.
Is your team on board with your company's goals, philosophies, and positioning? Explain that you're building a championship team positioned to dominate your business category. Ask for their ideas and input. Demand the best from your team, but do so in a caring, supportive environment. Firms achieving the greatest success invest in their culture. Spend time on developing and nurturing the top performers and those with potential. Don’t let poor performers or those not interested in being part of a championship team drag down the others.
Does your firm have a differentiation or value story? Is your market position unique and memorable? Does it make your firm stand out from the crowd or simply blend in? People conduct business with people they like and firms they remember. Be the one they remember. If you don’t know what makes you different or have a compelling story; work on that. Give your team and your clients something to talk about and they'll be your best business development ambassadors.
At this year’s Aggie 100, keynote speaker Coach R.C. Slocum said, “As you are sitting here celebrating, just know that there’s someone out there planning to take your place in the market.” Put your time and energy into developing relationships with clients, prospects, referral sources, and community leaders. Nurture those connections every day. Place a quick call just to say hello, write a note, meet for coffee or lunch . . . do something to stay in touch. Work on broadening your network to stay ahead of the game. A strategically built, far-reaching network has the greatest ability to benefit your firm.
If you are an expert, speak up. Speaking in front of 100 people is worth more (financially and in goodwill) than you can imagine. Knowledge leaders speak. Knowledge leaders are quoted. If you fear public speaking, hold webinars or podcasts. Write a blog. Send a brief newsletter. Share your views and insights. Lead the thinking. Don’t be afraid to challenge the norm.
Clients are the sole reason your firm exists. Unfortunately, many firms have forgotten that. Make your clients feel important. It's easier and far less expensive to market to your most loyal customers than to find new ones. Ask clients for feedback. Once a year, invite your key clients to a special event to thank them for their business. Better yet, look at your client base – do they know each other? Could they benefit from meeting each other? Be the connector.
Everything you do and everything the client sees and experiences - your office, services, telephone greetings, landscaping, washroom, and lobby area - must be remarkable. If those factors are mediocre, you're just another easily forgettable, average firm unable to sustain any real client loyalty. Walk into your firm like a new client. Look around. Is the reception area warm and inviting? Are they greeted in a friendly manner . . . by name? Do you remember how they take their coffee? It takes more than intelligence and expertise to create a remarkable client experience. Pay attention to the smallest details that collectively create the entire experience of working with your firm.
Ideas don't mean anything if they remain in your head. Write down your vision. Set goals to achieving that vision. Create a business development plan detailing the steps it’ll take to get there and make them deadline oriented. Get feedback from your team so they buy into the program. Share the plan with mentors or someone you know will hold you accountable and share the progress on a continuous basis. A written plan, used as a frequently referenced guide by you and your entire team, will make your firm unstoppable.